SUNTREE, Fla. — A large residential development in Brevard County could end up having one of the most-strict housing policies in the state in terms of sexual offenders and predators.
According to a recent report by TV station WESH, the Suntree homeowners association approved the implementation of a new policy that would ban all convicted sexual predators and sexual offenders from living in the community. The amendment to the covenant regarding the matter was voted on during the Suntree Master Homeowners Association's annual meeting, which took place on March 15, Florida Today reported.
The Association recently asked its residents to change housing restrictive covenants, which is essentially approving the expansion of the zone of protection of city and county ordinances, Florida Today reported. The new rule states that convicted sexual offenders and sexual predators may not live within 3,000 feet of public parks, school-bus stops, and other areas where children may congregate. Since there are no homes in Suntree that are more than 3,000 feet of these places, the rule essentially keeps convicted sexual predators from living within the boundaries of the community.
Suntree includes 4,500 households as well as day care centers and schools, according to the Florida Today report.
The new rule came after meetings between the residents and the Brevard County Sheriff's Office, according to the Florida Today report. The meetings discussed the crimes that were taking place on the Space Coast area of Florida and plans by the surrounding communities to prevent these crimes from happening before they start.
Fair-housing laws — which protect homeowners and homebuyers from discrimination based on certain characteristics such as race, religion, national origin and gender — do not currently protect those who are convicted sexual offenders. According to Florida statute Chapter 775, section 215, a person who has been convicted of certain sexual offenses may not be reside within 1,000 feet of a child care facility, park, playground or school. These laws, plus the fact that housing covenants usually have more control and power over the make-up of a neighborhood than those without official guidelines, are what make lawyers confident that what has been proposed in Suntree completely legal, Florida Today reported.
Sonia Bosinger, the lawyer for the Suntree Master Homeowners Association, told Florida Today that convicted offenders who are already living within the new 3,000-foot zone may possibly be grandfathered in, with the decision being decided on a case-by-case basis.
“The restriction is intended to cover all persons qualifying as sexual predators,” Bosinger said. “However, for any offenders that may already be residing within the 3,000-foot zone of protection, Suntree will need to analyze each case individually to determine the parties' respective rights and obligations.”
Tod Goodyear, who is a spokesperson for Brevard County Sheriff's Office, told WESH that “[h]omeowners associations have the right to enact covenants for their neighborhoods.”
Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released statements about restrictions place on renting and selling to convicted felons, stating that certain races could be affected because of the higher number of convictions and arrests of people of a certain ethnicity.